Jobs for graduates – A shared responsibility

The employment of university graduates and postgraduates has become a headache for successive governments in Algeria as the present job market has little to offer qualified or highly qualified candidates. Paradoxically, small and medium-sized enterprises are struggling to find appropriately skilled employees.

“Nowadays, it is quite hard to find electricians, plumbers, builders, moulders and repairers,” said Smail Bouda, managing director of Public Works and Constructions Enterprise in Algiers.

“Unfortunately, owing to the democratisation policy, the Algerian educational system has produced massive numbers of first-degree holders as well as masters and doctoral graduates, but without any coordination with and accommodation of the needs of the market.

“The crisis is perceptible mainly in public works, construction and agricultural areas, where the need for particular skills are greater and government plans to call for foreign workers mainly from China and parts of Africa,” he said.

According to Naamane Bousbia, a financial expert based in Algiers, it is estimated that 650,000 employees are required to enable the agricultural sector to meet its current food security requirements. Bousbia called for urgent coordination and cooperation between universities, higher education institutes, colleges and training centres and enterprises to address the issue.

Partnerships as a priority

“Partnerships should be a top priority between educational and professional sectors,” he said.

Facilitating a debate on the issue, El Moudjahid daily newspaper recently organised a forum under the theme of training, employability and the future

According to a news report covering the engagement, Ahmed Haniche, organiser of the National Training and Career Fair, confirmed there was a mismatch between graduates and skills. He said certain companies no longer bothered too much about diplomas, but rather insisted on “know-how” and “practical skills” when hiring.

Professor Mohamed Nadjib Boukhatem, a member of the management of Blida Agriculture-Food Science and Technology Institute, confirmed that know-how and training were taking precedence over the diploma.

Against this backdrop, an Algerian-European employment pilot project involving some of the country’s universities has been launched under the auspices of the Algerian National Employment Agency.

The project has required the mobilisation of €15.3 million (US$18 million) and involves the cooperation of the International Labour Organization. The project, directed by selected academics, presents an opportunity to explain techniques and procedures, as well as give tips about effective job searching.

Reflecting positively on the training, a trainee was reported as saying: “We have just finished a one-week training course at the University of Bejaia. The second stage involves the installation of job search clubs at three pilot universities: Tlemcen, Biskra and Bejaia. The operation should be extended to other universities of the country.”

Vocational training

The focus of the project is on vocational training targeting graduates and unemployed youth that corresponds to the skills requirements of industry.

Frederic Lapeyre, an expert at the International Labour Organization, argued there was still a need for more cooperation between universities and industry.

“Formal relations between universities and companies are still too limited,” he said. “Some universities have just begun piloting career centres in order to set up links between businesses and universities, although they are still small and their scope remains limited.”

He said young people often chose university courses which have limited employment prospects and were under-equipped to successfully find paid employment.

“Public and private enterprises, employers and workers’ organisations have a role to play in facilitating the integration of university graduates into the labour market,” he said.

In parallel, the National Youth Employment Support Agency, a national body responsible for managing a credit fund for the creation of businesses and also the Unemployment Insurance Fund, are committed to offering subsidised employment contracts or start-up support to young job seekers and entrepreneurs.

Lack of communication

According to Economics Professor Fares Mesdour, a major challenge students and jobseekers face is a lack of information.

“For the programme to be successful the International Labour Organization and Algerian partners should work together to improve labour market information and provide clear academic guidance to enable applicants to make the right decisions about training or education,” he said.

To this end, the Ministry of Labour and a network of 48 employment agencies have developed and launched information systems aimed at all labour market players, including the ministry itself, employers, jobseekers, universities and the National Office of Statistics.

Algerian authorities have also adopted a new instrument known as the Operational Reference for Trades and Jobs which offers a list of 3,000 job types. According to Farid Yesri, an expert in economics, the instrument could be a valuable aid for young graduates who do not find job advertisements corresponding with their skills profile.

Universities are increasingly becoming aware of their roles in graduate employment. Officials from the co-operation and self-evaluation committee of Badji Mokhtar University of Annaba, 550 kilometres East of the capital, have announced in a press release that no less than 80 co-operation and partnership agreements have been signed between their university and economic enterprises.

These agreements serve as operational frameworks for scientific research projects intended to benefit the local economic sector and deal in particular with development and issues relating to administration, governance, management and control of digital applications.

A key example of these agreements, according to the committee, is a partnership between Sonelgaz, the national utility for electricity and gas, and a research laboratory specialising in electronic document management in the computer science department at the same university.

In terms of this agreement, the laboratory will carry out a project on the rationalisation of electricity consumption, with the development of software that sets out actual electricity needs but also rationalises its distribution. The two parties have also agreed to broaden the scope of their cooperation to other areas in response to challenges of local economic development.

In addition, the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and the Department of Labour have agreed to create entrepreneurship hubs at various universities.

According to M’Hamed Salah Eddine Seddiki, secretary-general of the Higher Education and Scientific Research Ministry, these hubs will be led by university teachers and representatives of the National Youth Employment Support Agency, and will support students keen to implement their business creation projects.